Archive for April 5th, 2008

Some beads end up in trees behind Jackson SquareThe National Weather Service insisted that last week’s temperatures for the lovely city of New Orleans would be in the upper 60s/lower 70s, with thunderstorms or scattered showers likely on most days. So you can imagine my surprise when I got out of the airport and discovered it was 84 degrees.

Ah well. As I said to our friendly innkeeper, “I just figured the federal government lies about everything to do with New Orleans weather….” [Yes, that got a laugh.]No, he did not try to sell us car insurance

Officially, the reason for being in New Orleans was a conference for teachers of technical writing. Shop talk for the techno-rhets. In some ways, disheartening, because when you take ten years off from a field and then have to participate fully again, the first sense is how much catching up there probably is to do.

On the other hand, hearing someone say:

Let me set up bell hooks versus Foucault…

instantly reminded me of graduate seminars wherein theorists became adjectives used to describe a particular critical approach, and I would wonder whether “Foucauldian” would ever really have the staying power of “Shakespearean”.

A moment later my brain had skittered off to what the claymation Celebrity Death Match would be like if it really was bell hooks versus Foucault. Who would be disciplined? Who would get punished? How? [Honestly, the paper in question didn’t really belong at the conference; it belonged at CCCC. I’d say MLA, but I think the presenter would have been rigorously problematized into the next dimension, and she didn’t deserve that.]At the French Market Cafe

When you have two major writing conferences going on in one place, conversations about language start leaking in to the local culture — one of the taxi drivers wanted to know more about the origins of English. Why was it so hard to learn? Considering that his first language was probably Bengali or Hindi, I wasn’t sure where to begin. Still, it seemed a reasonable question to try to answer, since he seemed painfully aware that his adopted city had overnight been infested with thousands of English professors. “It’s a cross between German and Latin, and it steals words from every other language that comes along.”

This seemed an acceptable answer.

Two iconic forms of New Orleans metalworkIt was a much easier conversation than the one on the way back to the airport, during which the driver described how he was going to kill the next person who pulled a gun on him, how the welfare state was ruining the work ethic, and how he loved the live-and-let-live attitude of New Orleans. Somehow, when he expressed his disappointment that marijuana was not likely to be legalized in his lifetime, I wasn’t surprised.

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